Album review: BLACK SABBATH – Vol.4 Super Deluxe Edition

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BLACK SABBATH - Vol.4 Super Deluxe Edition

Sanctuary (5LP) [Release date 12.02.21]

Now here really is a special edition of a genuinely classic album, by one of the original developers of the whole heavy metal genre, Black Sabbath.

Originally a blues band in the late 60s, the Polka Tulk Blues Band (via Earth) morphed into Black Sabbath in late 1969, taking their name (and the eponymous song) from a horror film, and the rest is history.

In them long forgotten early days (or is that daze?) the band were extremely hard working, laying down half an album overnight on 8 tracks en route to a European tour, but they probably didn’t know any different back then.

Their eponymous debut appeared on Friday 13th February 1970, and by 1972, a mere three years, the band had made waves of fans in the UK and USA, had a surprise hit single in Paranoid, toured hard, consumed more alcohol and drugs than most hellraisers do in a lifetime, toured some more, and still found time to release this album, their 4th (hence the imaginative title).

Their doom riff led sound, still with a hint of blues from their roots, defined a genre and could have been considered gods before Birmingham band mates Judas “Metal Gods” Priest had even issued their first album.

Vocalist John “Ozzy” Osbourne, bassist and lyricist Terry “Geezer” Butler, drummer Bill Ward and guitarist and riff meister Tony Iommi had already, by this album’s release, set the template; Volume 4 just rubber stamped it.

So when this package arrived, and postman limped off to his osteopath appointment, one can’t help wonder in glory before you’ve even opened the box.

It’s thick, solid, heavy, has an aura of quality in both manufacture and listening (and, as it turns out, reading). The box itself replicate’s the album’s now iconic (and much copied) artwork.

First out the box is the original album, and a slight hint of disappointment in that it’s in a single sleeve, not reproducing the original gatefold. But that said, the remastered music on heavy weight vinyl sounds wonderful as soon as the needle hits the grooves.

There’s a different heaviness in the doom here, the heroin affecting the band’s sound and lyrics. Tomorrow’s Dream (also a single) keeps the heaviness while upping the tempo, and Laguna Sunrise composed by Iommi after a night sniffing (they never injected) and witnessing the morning dawn.

Much of the writing was done during recording in Los Angeles, California, and with Iommi taking control of production (the band felt that Roger Bain wasn’t getting the best out of the band), there’s a definite step forward.

Snowblind, a clear reference to the drugs they were taking, used the same orchestra as Sunrise, and also was to be the album’s title track until the record company stepped in. Supernaut has a great riff, often considered one the band’s finest songs, and a life favourite too that often featured a drum solo.

The album’s only light note is the ballad Changes, the leading piano line written and played by Iommi (again Butler wrote the lyrics). The song appeared as a single b-side, and later as an a-side by Ozzy. And the less said about the Ozzy/Kelly version the better

The album produced many a bold move; from the ballad Changes to the uses of orchestra, a slight change of direction, and a willing to write about what’s going on, from drug use to breakdown and, in the case of Changes, Bill Ward’s divorce. Under the surface it’s a heartbreaking song to listen to.

Volume 4, as above, is an essential part of any rock or metal record collection, the remaster gives it a crisp sound and on LP comes over well.

The next two LPs out of the box are similarly packaged single LPs, featuring new mixes of outtakes and alternate versions. It begins with six previously unreleased studio outtakes from the original sessions for the album, newly mixed by Steven Wilson using the analog multi-tracks.

Highlights include outtakes for “Supernaut” and “Changes,” as well an instrumental version of “Under The Sun.” The set also features 11 additional studio recordings (also newly mixed by Wilson from the analog multi-tracks) that spotlight alternative takes, false starts and snippets of studio dialogue. A bit of banter and a false start or two give insight into the album’s recording,

Then there’s a 2lp live album in a gatefold sleeve, featuring tracks from across the 1973 tour; and this is the first time this set as appeared in its entirety, officially. Drugs or no drugs the band were on form and so were the audience. Magnificent in every sense.

And to finish, there’s a large poster and a 12”x12” hardback book with extensive liner notes and lots of pictures, including singles and world-wide label variations (not enough releases have this).

So apart from the lack of gatefold on the original LP (these things matter to us vinyl collectors), this set sounds as good as it looks and half the fun is enjoying the packing while listening to the music.

A Dream, at Sunrise or any time of day. *****

Review by Joe Geesin

WIN A COPY!! Competition closes 14.02.21

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